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Published: June 11th 2017
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than the ones you did do. So throw off the bow lines, sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. - Mark Twain
I'm writing this in the Cairo airport, waiting for our flight to Sharm el Sheikh. There's no wifi in the airport (at least no wifi that we can get to work) and there's no shops or anything in the area we are in, so it's good I have yesterday's blog entry to do. I'll post it when we get to the hotel in Dahab.
Yesterday we left our hotel at 8:30 am for the drive to Jerash, about an hour away from Amman. The scenery from Amman to Jerash was lovely. At one point we were only about 15 min away from the Syrian border.
Jerash was settled as a town during the time of Alexander the Great, but the ruins are from the time of the Romans (Jerash was one of the cities of the Decapolis - called Gerasa). Jerash flourished through trade with the Nabateans (of Petra) in the
Gates to the Hippodrome
first few centuries CE. It reached its peak around the beginning of the 3rd C CE when it had a population of around 15,000 to 20,000. The city declined after a massive earthquake in 747 and was mostly deserted until the arrival of Circassians in 1878.
We had a coffee break in the main entrance where there are shops and coffee shops and bathrooms. Susan and I had a Turkish coffee, and then we set out on our tour of Jerash.
The ruins are located right in the middle of the modern town of Jerash. It seems incongruous to see Roman arches, colonnaded streets and temples with the buildings of the modern town in the background. At first I was comparing the site to Ephesus (in Turkey) and didn't think it was nearly as impressive, but as we toured the area I realized how large it was and what an impressive site it really was. It didn't have a particular building as spectacular at the Library at Ephesus or the Treasury or Monastery at Petra, but it was still pretty amazing. And Hadrian's Arch is pretty impressive.
We entered through Hadrian's Arch (built to honour the visiting
emperor) which dates back to 129 CE. We walked around Jerash for at least 3 hours, with Mohammed explaining the monuments and temples we were seeing. As usual, Mohammed's informative tour made the place come alive for us. If we were walking by ourselves and just reading the occasional sign, it would have been a much lesser experience.
It was quite hot in Jerash, with not much shade, though occasionally there was a little breeze which made it more pleasant. We drank the water we had with us but there was a person selling water when we were about half way though so we gratefully bought a bottle. There were vendors here and there throughout the site, including unfortunately right in the Temple of Artemis, which kind of detracted from our enjoyment of the Temple. They were not persistent or annoying, but I don't know why the government allows them right in the site. This is so different from Turkey, where these type of vendors didn't exist. At each site in Turkey there was a very nice gift shop selling quality items. In Egypt and in Jordan, there are vendors selling cheap tourist trinkets everywhere. They seem to be
independent sellers who set up stalls or shops, at the sites. The prices are lower than at the gift shops in Turkey, but I would rather spend more for something better quality. Also, there was no bargaining and nobody pouncing on you.
Anyway, I really enjoyed our time at Jerash. It was an enormous site but small enough to see pretty much everything over several (3-4) hours. We saw the Hippodrome, the South Gate, the Forum (it's enormous), the Temple of Zeus, and the South Theatre (I climbed up to the top). There were members of the Jordanian Scottish bagpipe band there playing briefly (bagpipe and drums). The acoustics in the Theatre are fantastic.
We continued to several churches, including the Church of St. Cosmos and St. Damianus, which was consecrated in 533. It has an amazing beautifully preserved mosaic floor. Some of the mosaics are now in one of the museums we visited in Amman, the Museum of Popular Traditions.
We continued up the hill and admired the expansive view, from Hadrian's Arch to the North Gate. We enjoyed the Temple of Artemis (particularly lovely sandstone columns). The water vendor there showed me where to take
a photo from and showed Christine and I a Roman house. It was quite dark but interesting. He instructed us to hold our our arms at a particular place (between two windows) and make a wish! So we both did. Sorry, I can't tell you my wish because he said we couldn't.
We walked down the Cardo Maximus, a 800 metre long colonnaded street that runs straight back to the Forum. It is complete with covered manholes to access underground drainage. On the way we saw the Nymphaeum, which would have been the main ornamental foundation in Jerash, dedicated to water nymphs. It was built around 191 CE and would have been a beautiful sight.
We bought a few things in the shops in the main entrance (two small pictures), and I got a pomegranate juice. Our fantastic driver Sami was waiting for us and off we went for the approximately 1 1/2 hour drive to the Dead Sea. We drove south, back past Amman, and through the Jordan Valley. It is a beautiful area with lots of areas under cultivation. Much of Jordan's produce is grown in this area.
Our ears popped as we descended down
Not the elaborate mosaics in the churches. Can't remember what this building was.
and down, to 400 metres below sea level. Our spot for the afternoon was the "Amman Beach Tourism Resort". We first had a buffet lunch (I had lots of salads and spreads and it was very good), then we changed into our bathing suits, rented towels, and headed down to the beach. The hills on the other side of the Dead Sea are, of course, Israel. Susan got one of those messages on her phone you get when you arrive in a new country saying welcome to Israel! I got the welcome to Egypt and welcome to Jordan texts, but not the welcome to Israel text.
It was hot there at the Dead Sea, much hotter than Amman or Jerash. Susan went in the water first so I could take some photos of her floating, then we switched and I went in, then we both floated around together. It was such an odd experience, just effortlessly floating in the warm water. It was unlike anything we've done before, and it was really fun!
We spent some time in the water, then we went to the mud hut, paid our 3 JDs each (about $6) and slathered ourselves with
black Dead Sea mud. This mud is supposed to be very good for your skin. It didn't smell wonderful though! It was a hoot plastering ourselves and of course we had to get photos of ourselves (thanks Dominica for taking the pictures!). We waited 10 min or so while it dried (it felt like a second skin) and then we carefully washed it all off back in the Dead Sea. Carefully because you definitely don't want to get water in your eyes as it will really burn.
We showered at the outdoor shower, then hopped in the pool for a bit. Then we had another shower inside and changed back into our clothes for the drive back to Amman. We were at the Dead Sea for close to 3 hours. The sun set over the Dead Sea as we were driving back.
We said good bye to our driver Sami when we got back to the hotel. Sami really likes Susan because she speaks Arabic with him. Whenever we go into a shop Sami introduces her to the shopkeeper and maybe we get a better deal because of this! All the shopkeepers remember Susan and are so happy
It is a huge area
to speak to her in Arabic. They are all amazed she can speak it and want to know where her family is from.
We got back to the hotel 7:15 ish and had a beer in the hotel restaurant with most of the group, then Susan and I went to a falafel place just around the corner. It was a teeny little takeout place, and it was definitely the best falafel I've had on this trip. The falafels cost 30 piastres each, about 60 cents!
We sorted our luggage and used the rest of our gin to make a shared gin and tonic. I can't believe it was our last night in Jordan - the Jordan leg of our trip went by so fast.
This morning we were down in the lobby about 7 am ready for our pick up to the airport. The hotel made up breakfast boxes which we took with us (juice box, apple, cucumber, and a lebany and cheese sandwich each). On our other flights within Egypt and from Cairo to Amman we had no problem bringing liquids on board, so I had a bottle of water and the juice boxes in my
I think these were homes
knapsack, but the security guy decided to be a stickler and searched my purse and knapsack and confiscated my bottled water and both juice boxes. Susan had gone through just in front of me and got her bottle of water through no problem, but this particular guy appeared as I was going through and was annoyed at his colleagues for being so lax, I think. Anyway I was miffed at losing the juice boxes and water.
After we were through security we had a Turkish coffee and a really tasty fresh lime and mint juice, and the little sandwiches from our breakfast box. The 1 hr 30 min flight was fine, luckily there was no one sitting in the middle seat. They served a snack which I saved for later. I had a picnic here as I am typing this blog (little bun and cheese, cake and a guava juice box).
The flight to Sharm is one hour, and we will get picked up for the approx 1 hr drive up the coast to the town of Dahab, where we will be spending four nights. Tomorrow we have a full day tour to St. Catherine's Monastery, and we
get to ride camels again - can't wait!
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